Wild Horses: The Bureau of Land Management's False Compassion


By Tiffany Walker-Roper

A recent news story making the internet rounds has shocked not only the animal rights community but the general public as well. The outcry was fierce and pointed, petitions started and major news publications picking up the headline. What was this outrageous story that had the world astir? The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had made a decision to slaughter 45,000 wild horses and burros living in the Western prairies where they roam.

This one decision was inspired by a need for private businesses to use the land - private businesses known as cattle ranchers. Big American Agriculture needed the government to get the wild animals to not only go away, but to be killed so that their animals can roam the land before they kill them. Cattle is big business, especially if they eat grass instead of corn, which allows their bodies to be sold as “free-range,” “grass-fed,” “organic,” or - the most duplicitous ploy - “humane”.  Horses and burros eat grass too, which cuts into the profit margin of a rancher who only raises cattle on grass.

After an outcry from animal rights activists and the general public, the BLM decided against the mass slaughter. Our wild horses and burros get to live until someone decides they are a problem again. They get to be happy and free, a beautiful thing. This happy ending obscures a simple fact, though: neither they nor any other animal will ever be safe so long as animal agriculture exists. Neither will the cows, the other winners of this story.

Because animals are considered property in the eyes of the law, a rancher has a right to do what they need in order to ensure the safety and well being of their property. This includes killing other animals. We hear outcries over ranchers shooting wolves to protect their investments; we hear outcries over the Bureau of Land Management killing bison yearly at Yellowstone to allow cattle grazing; but we never hear outcries over the millions of cows slaughtered yearly. Cows, like fishes, chickens, and so many others, are slaughtered every minute of every day and yet no one is outraged.

Everyone loves horses, even burros if the story mentions them in passing. For however much we love them, these beautiful animals have become pawns in a violent system where profits trump compassion and then hide behind a false compassion for cover.  Cows - along with chickens, pigs, fishes, turkeys and other animals killed for food - are subjected to horrific violence every single day of their lives behind a false compassion for those lucky enough to be born horses or cat or dogs.